Ramaphosa’s SONA and the issue of gender-based violence

Cyril Ramaphosa will have to explain on Thursday how the state will give effect to majority party January 8 statement commitments in the light of a shrinking fiscus.

Gender-based violence made it into the January 8 statement of the majority party. And not just a mention – a relatively thorough and honest assessment of the state of women and girl children in South Africa, and in particular the unprecedented levels of abuse, violence and murder suffered by them. The president said “we must hang our heads in shame” at the state of gender-based violence and the patriarchal practices that give rise to it in the country.

Indeed. He also asked the men in the stadium to stand and make a commitment to end gender-based violence. Contrast this with no mention of gender-based violence at all in last year’s January 8 statement.

The harrowing stories told by survivors at the recent Summit on Gender-Based Violence seem to have persuaded the party to highlight the issue as a national crisis. The women who took to the streets for #totalshutdown can legitimately claim the summit as a success, and it is very pleasing to see a rhetorical commitment to ending the scourge.

But when the president promised that “the ANC government will continue to scale up the network of Thuthuzela Care Centres and other victim empowerment initiatives” I really started paying attention.

Thuthuzela Care Centres are one-stop facilities, aimed at preventing secondary victimisation of rape and abuse victims, improving conviction rates, and reducing the time taken to finalise cases. There are 55 Thuthuzela Care Centres across the country.

The care centres are proving an antidote to the general level of non-reporting of sexual offences. Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust compared the patterns of reporting at three local Thuthuzela Care Centres that it recorded in Cape Town.

  • In 2014 there were 2,628 cases.
  • In 2015 there were 3,153 cases.
  • In 2016 there were 3,210 cases.
  • In 2017 there were 3,425 cases.

These increases match a decrease in reporting to local police stations. It makes sense – at most care centres counsellors inform the survivor about the complex processes involved in reporting rape: a nurse will counsel the survivor about potential health risks, including potential HIV infection, and prepare them for the forensic examination, which is conducted by a doctor specially trained to collect forensic evidence for the crimes of rape and sexual assault. After this examination, the first responder gives the survivor a care pack containing toiletries so that she can shower, change into clean underwear and brush her teeth.

A police detective takes a statement immediately or escorts the survivor to their home and makes an arrangement to take the statement the next day.

In some care centres, they work with or near a sexual offences court, which provides specialist infrastructure, personnel and services to survivors.

Donors have funded the care centres for some time. This funding will end on the 31st March 2019.

In recent research produced for the AIDS Foundation of South Africa and the Networking HIV & AIDS Community of Southern Africa, they highlight the ending of the Global Fund grant funding for the care centres. “The extensive funding provided the Global Fund to almost all care centres across the country raises concern around the care centres ability to effectively implement the provision of psychosocial services without support from other donors.”

All Thuthuzela Care Centre stakeholders interviewed thought that the ending of this tranche Global Fund grant funding on 31 March 2019 would have dire consequences for the services currently being offered. The withdrawal of Global Fund grant funding at the care centres may result in the loss of a number of NGO services.

So where will the funds come from to sustain the care centres? The president will have to explain how the state will give effect to majority party commitments, in the light of a shrinking fiscus.

Alison Tilley is the head of advocacy and special projects at the Open Democracy Advice Centre.

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Helpline & Emergency Numbers

We have put together a list of referral numbers, including national Thuthuzela Care Center’s and national emergency numbers should you wish to contact them. Although it is the festive season, the listed organisations are always here for you and those is need of support. The lists can be found below or downloaded for your disposal.

This is a list of all the Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) in the Country.  Not all TCC’s operate in the same way as Heideveld and Karl Bremer in that not all of them have counsellors on 24/7 shifts.   When in doubt about where to refer someone to, i.e., you can’t find an appropriate referral in the rest of the referral file, you can put the client in touch with the TCC in their area and they should be able to give the client an appropriate referral.

Remember, if you can’t speak to anyone, speak to us.

DOWNLOAD / VIEW PDF’s HERE:

National TCC Referrals

Helpline Numbers 

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Reclaiming the Body: A Six-Week Course for Survivors

As sexual trauma is held within the body, it can leave you feeling numb, disconnected or overwhelmed by emotions. Rape Crisis is offering a course using a combination of simple body movement, breathe work and mindfulness techniques to help you reconnect to your body in a safe and gentle way. Learning how to reconnect to your body after sexual trauma is a powerful step on the road to recovery.

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Speak Out member Mercia Isaacs. Pic: Alexa Sedge

This course is open to adult women survivors (18yrs and older) who are past, present or possible new clients of Rape Crisis. Being in counselling is recommended, but not necessary as a counsellor will be present at each session. Participants are asked to commit to the full 6 sessions.

When:  Weekly every Thursday, starting the 4th May until 8th June 2017

Time:  10:30am – 12pm

Venue: Observatory

Cost: Free

Spaces are limited to 10 participants so please call to book by 26 April 2017:  Angela or Khabo on (021) 447-9762 or email volunteersobs@rapecrisis.org.za